Motorcycle News' Matthew Birt is reporting that Dani Pedrosa will be switching to use Bridgestone tires effective immediately after the Misano race. It was widely anticipated that the Repsol Honda team - or at the very least, Dani Pedrosa's side of the garage - would be switching to the Japanese rubber for next season, after Pedrosa expressed his disgust with Michelin's failures in no uncertain terms after the Brno round. Pedrosa's unhappiness went so far that his manager, Alberto Puig, even tried to organize a boycott of the Brno GP by the Michelin riders, on the rather questionable grounds of safety. Michelin dismissed this claim, saying that the tires may have been off the pace, but there were no safety issues. MCN also revealed that HRC's manager Masumi Hamane was actually behind this attempt.
Now, in a shock and unprecedented move, Pedrosa will switch tire brands in the middle of the season. Pedrosa and Repsol Honda organized the deal with Bridgestone and Dorna to allow the Spaniard to make the move immediately. Dorna needed to be involved, as the rules state that the FIM and Dorna must be informed if teams decide to switch tire makers mid-season. Again, according to MCN, only Pedrosa will switch to Bridgestones, with Pedrosa's ostensible team mate Nicky Hayden remaining on Michelins.
Switching tires in the middle of the season is extremely risky, with so little data on how the bike will respond on the new rubber. But this decision casts a new light on HRC's decision to give Shinya Nakano a factory-spec Honda RC212V to ride for the rest of the season. The most unusual detail in this decision was that the engine Nakano was provided with was not the pneumatic valve engine, the engine which HRC believes is the future, but rather the steel spring valve version currently being used by none other than Dani Pedrosa. Readers will not be surprised to learn that Shinya Nakano's Gresini Honda team are using Bridgestone tires.
So with HRC having access to Nakano's data, Pedrosa will at least not be starting with a blank sheet, as Valentino Rossi was forced to do at the beginning of the season, with no Yamaha ever having run Bridgestones. But unlike Rossi, Pedrosa will be forced to race with very little testing data on the Japanese tires. MCN is reporting that Pedrosa will be using the Bridgestones in a test due to be run at the circuit on Monday.
The reasons for Pedrosa's switch are well known. The Spaniard has made no secret of his belief that his tires have prevented him from being competitive this year, and have probably cost him a shot at the championship this season. Tires have definitely been a factor, but it would be foolish to discount the fact that both Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have been pushing each other to new heights of performance.
Ironically, Pedrosa's early switch to Bridgestones may quieten some of the calls for a single tire rule in MotoGP. Of the title candidates, Pedrosa's move leaves only Jorge Lorenzo and potentially Andrea Dovizioso on Michelin tires. If Michelin decide not to pull out of MotoGP, then most, if not all, of the main contenders for the 2009 MotoGP title will be on the same rubber. Next year, it'll be down to the riders, and the bikes again.
~~~ UPDATED ~~~
Michelin and Honda have now confirmed the news that Dani Pedrosa will be switching to Bridgestone tires effective immediately. The statement says that Pedrosa "doesn't feel at ease" with the tires Michelin have provided him. Read the full text of the press release on Crash.net.